The Power of Storytelling for Brands and Marketers

By aiwpadminJune 20, 2016

By Michael Foster. 

We are storytelling animals. Humans cannot understand the world without a good story to explain it. Myth, folklore and even science all depend on a narrative that explains how and why things are the way they are.

We don’t just need stories—we love them too. We grow desperate to know what happens next, which is why binge-watching House of Cards has become a reality of our time. One of the biggest sins you can commit on the internet is giving a spoiler without a spoiler tag. We want to discover how the story unfolds and how it ends on our own, and anyone who gets in the way is an enemy.

The best brands know that people love stories. They don’t go for the cheap fast sell by promising something amazing and underdelivering a product—instead they make you love the product for what it is. They do this by telling you a story around the product. The brand becomes a story that people carry in their heads.

For example, Airbnb recently relaunched their branding campaign into a more story-focused collection of online videos and TV commercials. They tell the story of travelers who aren’t tourists, who instead visit a place and experience it as if it is home. This experience is Airbnb’s differentiated value—instead of staying in a hotel, you can choose to stay in someone’s condo, apartment, or house, living like the locals do. Airbnb is spending millions telling this story to millions of people around the world. It’s obviously working.

Social media also provides another great opportunity to tell stories—and have people tell their own stories. Some brands just find these stories landing in their laps. For instance, a fireman who saved a kitten with a GoPro attached to his helmet uploaded the video of the rescue and it quickly went viral—with cats and a happy ending, how could it not? Over 1 million shares later, the internet quickly saw the power of GoPro, while associating it with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Not all brands can spend millions telling a story or count on the public to tell their story for them. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to tell your own story, no matter what your brand is. The key is first to recognize that telling a story is the ultimate goal of your branding campaign. At this year’s LeadsCon, ex-Ogilvy PR vice president Rob Biesenbach will lead a discussion about storytelling for brands.

The conversation will focus on how stories build trust and win hearts among a target audience. Biesenbach knows how companies have used storytelling to their advantage, and he’s eager to share that wisdom with aspiring brands who both want to generate sales and reach loyal customers who will keep coming back for more.

Click here to register for LeadsCon New York 2016.

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